[iDC] iCollege

Ian Condry condry at MIT.EDU
Mon Jun 21 08:53:39 UTC 2010

Hello All,

I'm Ian Condry, a cultural anthropologist at MIT who works in  
Comparatie Media Studies, and I've been enjoying this discussion as a  
lurker.  I wanted to comment on this:

> To succeed, however, the university will need to up its game and  
> make its boundaries more porous by meaningfully integrating emerging
> ways of knowing and new social media (2).

I agree.  The frustration many of us feel around classroom learning,  
and the related issue of stultifying conferences (e.g, in Asian  
studies, where I've spent some time), demands reform around the  
processes of learning, something that many people have commented on  
here with a variety of great ideas.

Collaborative learning is a keyword these days, and for me, this  
suggests thinking of learning less as one-to-one relationship in a  
group space (teacher to student in a classroom) and more as a  
networked process of discovery and action.  I'm quite taken by  
Christakis and Fowler's book "Connected" and the idea that "three  
degrees of separation" tend to define our spheres of influence.    
Following from that insight, we can view the "porous boundaries" of  
the classroom not simply as a general call to "act in the world" (a  
noble but too-big goal), and rather to encourage us to ask, as  
students and teachers, "who among our networks of people that we know  
can help us solve the problem(s) at hand?"

It's vague in my mind, but I feel like there is something to be gained  
from thinking in a more nuanced way beyond "individual/group/world"  
towards three-degree social networks, and a kind of "pass along the  
question" approach to problem-solving that uses classrooms as an  
epicenter for activating larger social networks.  For example, I  
always viewed  the Milgram experiment around 6-degrees of separation  
as evidence that "the world is small."  But the more important lesson  
is that unsolvable problems (e.g., get this letter to someone you  
don't know) can be tackled by passing along pieces of the problem to  
people in our networks.

I think this goes beyond using social media, and hinges instead on  
rethinking the way information is meaningful and valuable.  What  
matters are the social networks in which information is actionable.

Yet here too, I ask with Trebor, what are the best examples of showing  
how this works?  I think Wikipedia is only one among a multitude of  
possible models . . .

All the best,

Ian Condry
Associate Director, Comparative Media Studies
Assoc. Professor, Foreign Languages and Literatures
Room 14N-314
Cambridge, MA 02139

On Jun 21, 2010, at 11:18 AM, Trebor Scholz wrote:

> Education, caught up in a cost spiral, is in crisis. Tuition is on the
> rise and in the foreseeable future, higher education will be as
> unaffordable as a Prada bag. Anya Kamenetz' DIY U frames that well.
> The future lies neither solely in distance education nor in informal
> personal learning networks but rather in hybrid approaches. What we  
> are
> witnessing now are dress rehearsals where "e.learning" is trying on  
> the
> role of the cash cow that can deliver it all and DIY universities
> sometimes make it sound as if they are the panacea. The reality is
> somewhere in between. In the years to come, the university will lose
> some of its centrality to informal learning projects (1) and  
> variants of
> profit-driven courseware. Let's stop pretending that this is not
> happening. To succeed, however, the university will need to up its  
> game
> and make its boundaries more porous by meaningfully integrating  
> emerging
> ways of knowing and new social media (2).
> (1) Please send more examples of informal learning projects.
> The Public School (http://nyc.thepublicschool.org/)
> University of the People (http://www.uopeople.org/)
> University of Openess (http://uo.twenteenthcentury.com/)
> Copenhagen Free University
> (http://www.copenhagenfreeuniversity.dk/index.html)
> Manoa Free University (http://manoafreeuniversity.org/)
> EduFactory (http://www.edu-factory.org/)
> Radical Education Collective (http://radical.temp.si/)
> Free Slow University of Warsaw (http://www.wuw2009.pl/index.php?lang=eng 
> )
> Toronto School of Creativity & Inquiry (http://www.tsci.ca/)
> (2) I suggest some implementations of social media in the classroom in
> this slideshow: http://tinyurl.com/c2l6wy
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